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Archive for December, 2009

Two years have come and gone from life on the island.  Winter will never be the same for me again, not that I was all that fond of it in the first place.

The last two years have been spent seeking God’s plan for my life and my family as we dealt with some health related issues with one of our kids, along with my own theological crisis.  Landing in the U.S. with no ministry outlet was/is depressing for a lot of reasons.  It forces a reality check with life inside and outside of the church bubble.

It didn’t help that most of the evangelicals I knew in this area thought in terms of political and religious culture fights rather than getting to know and follow Christ wherever He might lead.  When a local homeless shelter was on the verge of being closed down at the start of winter, I was convinced that God called me to help out.

Unfortunately, the evangelicals in the area weren’t all that impressed.  They saw it as a trip across the Tiber because the local Roman Catholic diocese took the place over to keep the city from closing the shelter.  I wasn’t planning on joining the RC church (and still am not), but to hear some of my evangelical brethren, being employed by the RC diocese is almost the same as denying the  Reformation.

I’m not interested in fighting that battle anymore.  I’m more convinced than I ever was that God is concerned for the poor and helpless, not merely those whose lives look like American success stories.  Some of the people I see every day are mentally ill, addicted to alcohol or drugs and living with a lifetime of horror stories that play out in their head whenever they close their eyes.  They often appear to me as walking metaphors for life without hope of redemption.

Were it not for God’s grace, I think all of us would be mentally ill (or more so than we are) and struggling to hide the awfulness of this life behind whatever veil we find that works for us.  That veil may come in a bottle or it may come in a fancy house with a perfectly manicured yard.  Truth is the veil rips from time to time and we become aware that our lives are exposed for the whole world to see.

A homeless person lives their life in plain sight of the whole community and yet remains hidden or overlooked at the same time.  Those who aren’t homeless have better hiding places, but the result can be the same.  Life goes awry no matter how hard we try to keep it together.

If we say we are pro-life, shouldn’t we stop to help those whose lives have been shipwrecked for whatever reason.  We can say that the drunk on the street made her own mess, she needs to clean up her act, but will we say the same thing to a neighbor in our nice neighborhoods whose life unraveled in whirlwind of financial and relational crises?  Probably.  Probably not.

It would be the height of callousness to tell someone they made their stew, soak in it; while then heading off to church to worship as if we had no needs and cleaned ourselves up.  We can’t clean ourselves up anymore than someone fighting a lifetime of addiction or mental illness.  We don’t just get better on our own.  We need help.

Christmas is the open door of help.  Not only for the Salvation Army kettles we see at every store, but for every aspect of our lives.  Life is hell if Christ is never born, walks along our paths and leads us out of hopelessness.  I needed the past two years of working with the homeless to anchor my faith in Christ alone.

This Christmas I’m glad God has sent Christ to help me in my hopelessness.  I pray I can do the same for someone else who doesn’t have any hope, spiritual or otherwise, in the middle of winter in a cold part of the world.

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